Fresh off a win in London, the Brooklyn Nets return to New York for a road game in Manhattan against the Knicks. Because the game is on Martin Luther King Day, we will have an early 2:30 pm eastern start. Brooklyn has now won 6 of its past 7 games, including impressive wins over the Warriors, Heat, and two wins over Atlanta. Although Manhattan briefly appeared to jump out of its season-long slump a few weeks ago, the Knicks have now lost 3 in a row, albeit to pretty good teams.
This needs to be a revenge game for the Nets. Their worst and most embarrassing loss of the year was a loss at home to Manhattan by 30 points. What made it even more embarrassing was that the Knicks were playing just as badly as they were heading into that game. However, the Nets look like a completely different team today and I expect them to be much more competitive in this game.
One note is that Marquis Teague, who the Nets acquired from Chicago over the weekend, is not expected to play. Even though the trade is just about official, the league’s office was closed for the weekend and MLK Day, so it cannot approve the trade until Tuesday. It probably won’t matter, especially with Deron Williams expected to be back in the lineup.
Another note is that the Knicks’ struggling during early afternoon home games this year is well documented. The Nets are a veteran team and hopefully they will take advantage and come out strong in the first quarter.
Injuries: The Nets will catch a break with injuries this game. Everyone should be healthy (with the exception of Brook Lopez, obviously) and Deron Williams is expected to start. He may or may not be on a minutes restriction. For the Knicks, it is a much different story. Metta World Peace, Kenyon Martin, and Amare Stoudemire are all officially out. Pablo Prigioni has missed the last couple of weeks but could be back for this game. Either way, the Knicks’ bench is significantly weakened.
Deron Williams vs. Raymond Felton. Advantage: Williams
Even if Deron Williams is not at 100%, he is still a much better point guard than Raymond Felton. Felton is having a pretty bad year as his scoring, assists, steals, and shooting percentages are all down from last year. I have a feeling D-Will is going to have an awesome game. Remember, he played the best basketball of his life after returning from the shots in his ankles last year.
Shaun Livingston vs. Iman Shumpert. Advantage: Livingston
Shumpert had a very short 3 or 4 game stretch where he and the rest of the Knicks’ roster was playing well. But aside from that, he has been awful this year and has regressed. I expect Shaun Livingston to stay in the starting lineup even with Deron Williams healthy because of how well he has been playing along with the 2-point guard lineup.
Joe Johnson vs. Carmelo Anthony. Advantage: Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is coming off an absolutely dreadful shooting game on Friday against LA, where he shot just 4-23 from the field. Still, he is averaging 26 points and 9 rebounds per game this year. Joe Johnson has played extremely well with Deron Williams out. The question will be if he can keep it up with the whole roster healthy. He has often disappeared when not needed (one of the reasons why KG calls him “Joe Jesus”).
Paul Pierce vs. Andrea Bargnani. Advantage: Pierce
Paul Pierce must be salivating at this matchup because I don’t think there’s any way in the world that Bargnani won’t fall for at least 3 or 4 of his pump fakes if Bargnani is in fact guarding Pierce. Defensively, I think Pierce has adjusted nicely to guarding bigger players so I don’t think he’ll have a problem keeping up with Bargnani. However, because of all the Knicks’ injuries, they may choose to go small in their starting lineup to match up with the Nets. We will see.
Kevin Garnett vs. Tyson Chandler Advantage: Garnett
Tyson Chandler has not been able to stay healthy this year and even when he has played, he has not looked very good. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett is actually playing really well right now, especially defensively, but even offensively. He has been hitting his mid-range jump shots in 2014, which is what the Nets are asking him to do.
Bold prediction: Deron Williams scores 20 points. The thing that could prevent this from happening is a minutes restriction, but either way, I think he will play very, very well.
Score prediction: Nets 114, Knicks 92. The Nets will return the favor tonight and blow out their cross-river counterparts. They are the better team and are playing like it now and I think they win this game easily.